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Record Rating: ****

FERGIE - THE DUTCHESS Until former Wild Orchid singer Stacy "Fergie" Ferguson joined the group, the Black Eyed Peas were just a quirky, if critically acclaimed, trio of break-dancing rappers from L.A.'s underground rap scene. The organically groovy Elephunk catapulted the band into the mainstream thanks to their collaboration with Justin Timberlake on Where Is The Love? and the Grammy award winning single Letís Get It Started.

2005ís Monkey Business followed that multi-platinum blueprint to a tee and made them one of the biggest selling acts of the year. Just when it seemed like she'll spend the remainder of her recording career as the token girl in an all boys act, Fergie erases any doubt about her own musical talent with The Dutchess ~ her first solo release. Though produced primarily by band mate, most of the thirteen tracks are co-written and co-produced by her, slicing the set up between traditional Top 40 pop and hip-hop.

The once stuck in the shadows belle trades up her smoky vocals and a knack for musical playfulness; hear it not only on the chart topping hit London Bridge that propelled this project, but also on the tracks you'd expect least. Glamorous, with rap star Ludacris, is a dirty-flirty come on that'll nudge listeners into winking at strangers, while sure to be hit singles Fergalicious and Here I Come rip into the atmosphere, determined to get booties really shaking.

Appealing brassiness aside, other standouts include Mary Jane Shoes, which samples the Bob Marley classic No Woman, No Cry (with sweet harmonizing by Rita Marley and the I-Threes no less), and the excellent Cyndi Lauper inspired Big Girls Donít Cry. Though it doesn't quite match the meticulous lyrics and addictive symphonies of a Black Eyed Peas album, The Dutchess asserts that Fergie has a great future ahead of her.

Read our other reviews:

U2 - 18 Singles       Robbie Williams - Rudebox       Diddy - Press Play       Evanescence - The Open Door      


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